‘Tis the season for sharing and caring, for helping out within the community and putting a smile on more faces than just your own.
The annual Operation Angel Care is back, and tags have been distributed to local businesses for anyone to pick up.
The cards usually adorn what are known as “Angel Trees.” Each card has the name and interests of an area child whose family may need a little extra help in securing Christmas gifts this year.
Organized by the Somerset Junior Woman’s Club (SJWC), Operation Angel Care’s title sponsor is the Don Franklin Somerset Family of Dealerships, and contributing sponsors are Paul’s Discount and the Commonwealth Journal.
SJWC member Wynona Padgett said the organization has around 900 children signed up this year – about 150 more than usual.
“And we can guarantee we did not get everyone,” Padgett said. Even after the signup cutoff date, the organization has had people inquire about getting a child signed up.
Padgett said she and other SJWC members have been directing those families to other charity organizations who may still be taking applications.
What is the Angel Tree, one may ask? It’s a Christmas tree decked out with tags, each tag belonging to a child within the community. Volunteers are asked to take a tag – or several – and buy Christmas presents for that individual.
This year, Padgett said the recommended budget has been raised a bit. Volunteers are asked to keep their purchases to between $55 and $65.
“Due to inflation, it’s going to cost a little more to get what they need,” she said.
It is important to stick to that budget, Padgett said. Even if a volunteer wants to make a child’s Christmas special by giving them a huge gift, Padgett reminded them that their child may have brothers or sisters within their home. The budget is in place to make sure all children in a family get an equal amount.
Each tag gives the age, gender, needs and likes of the child. Volunteers should buy items they think would work well for their child based on that information.
Tags can be found at several local businesses: Don Franklin Chevrolet-Buick-GMC, Don Franklin Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram-Fiat, Don Franklin Somerset KIA, the Commonwealth Journal, Paul’s Discount, Aaron’s, Beauty Mark Salon, Courtyard by Marriott, Eye Health of Somerset, Gra C’s Boutique, The Pink Bee, T.J. Maxx, and the Vapor Pit.
When someone picks out a tag, they need to register at that business, giving their names and phone numbers so organizers can track down a person if they, perhaps, forget to bring their gifts back in on time.
Gifts need to be returned to the business the tag came from by noon December 14.
Padgett urged folks to focus on clothing first – get the child what they need first, then think about buying a toy or a fun item they might want.
All items should be brand new, no used clothing or toys. Padgett said they want to let the child have the joy of owning something that is theirs and only theirs.
“We really want to stress: Don’t wrap the gifts in boxes,” Padgett said. Gifts can be brought in, in gift bags. The child’s tag should be tied to the bags.
The reason for not wrapping the gifts is because organizers need to check them, making sure the clothing is the appropriate size, making sure toys are appropriate for the age of the child, and so on.
Whatever you decide to get for your child, those items should be bought as close to home as possible, Padgett said.
“We know it’s easy to order and have things shipped, but if at all possible, we want to encourage people to shop local,” she said.
That keeps our money within the community and helps even more people out this holiday season, she said.
Anyone who doesn’t want to go shopping themselves can also give a monetary donation. That money will go towards replacing any items that may need to be swapped out in someone else’s gifts, or to buy gifts for any child whose tags are left over.
To donate money, go to any Citizens National Bank branch and tell staff that your donation is for the Somerset Junior Woman’s Club Operation Angel Care account.
Or, folks can help out at one of SJWC’s fundraising events throughout the year. Padgett said the club will likely still do their annual dessert silent auction, but details are not ironed out just yet.
That dessert auction is usually the organization’s final push for donations. Another fundraising event took place just this last weekend: The SJWC Boutique Bounce Poker Run.
Padgett said that 31 ladies were able to shop at 22 local shops by “paying to play” at the Boutique Bounce Poker Run.
Padgett said the participants had a blast, and kept safe as everyone observed social distancing guidelines and wore masks throughout the event.